In our menu, vegetables play a fundamental role. In the recent months, in between my pregnancy, the lockdown and long, unusually slow summer months, I explored the world of vegetables with an even deeper curiosity: leaves, flowers, stems, fruits and tubers, everything ended into our menus.
At every meal, I made sure that there were at least two seasonal vegetables involved, as the protagonists of a main course, as a side to a meat or fish dish, or as a rich dressing for a bowl of pasta, rice or other grains.
Usually my way of cooking is the classic Tuscan one: extra virgin olive oil, a clove of garlic and off into a hot pan.
Over time, though, I learnt to venture into recipes inspired by Ottolenghi’s Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food, or by Nigel Slater’s English vegetable garden. His latest books, Greenfeast Autumn, Winter and Greenfeast Spring, Summer, are a collection of easy to make, mouth-watering vegetarian recipes.
So, during the past months, I cooked pasta with soft, garlicky broccoli and risotto with roasted squash, beetroot carpaccio (this recipe is missing here on the blog, but it would deserve a post), sautéed monk’s beard, pan fried zucchini and fresh tomato salads, grilled eggplants and baked fennels. I learned to use all the scraps, trying to minimize the waste, going so far as to thinly slice and sauté the hardest outer parts of fennel and Savoy cabbage with lots of garlic and chilli for an assertive side dish that ups the game of a boring grilled chicken breast.
Now that we are leaving behind the colours of summer vegetables to embrace the season of bitter leaves and cabbages, I’m glad to welcome new recipes in my cooking repertoire.
Not only I can vary our weekly menu by adding different flavours, but I can also shed a fresh new light on those vegetables that I tend to cook always in the same way. The influences of other cuisines are always gladly received in my kitchen.
That’s why I was so excited to take part again in one of the Baviera all’Italiana initiatives: they asked me to work on a recipe with cabbage, preparing a side of sauerkraut to be served along with grilled sausages.
How did it go? Since I’ve tried them, I’ve already cooked sauerkraut three times, adding cabbage to our weekly list of vegetables to buy at the market. This dish has brilliantly passed the selections and has fully entered my cooking repertoire.
This year the theme is #Oktoberfestacasatua, which means celebrating the Oktoberfest at home.
Since no events will be held on site, the beer festival moves online, where a team of bloggers will be sharing typical Bavarian recipes paired with the best Bavarian beers. And that’s my contribute to the celebrations.
Grilled sausages and sauerkraut
Like last year, when I prepared the Bayerischer Schweinebraten, the Bavarian roast pork with cumin and Weiss beer, I gave a Tuscan accent to my recipe. I replaced the Nuremberg PGI sausages with fresh artisanal sausages made with Grigio della Montagnola.
Grigio della Montagnola is a local free-range pig bred in the woods of the Montagnola, around Siena, a cross with the ancient breed of the Cinta Senese. These pigs have a better diet than us, feasting on acorns, truffles, mushrooms, tubers and all that the forest can offer.
This means that the meat is deliciously marbled with fat. And we know that fat translates into juicy and tasty meat, flavour. If you cannot find fresh sausages made with Grigio della Montagnola meat – and it might happen, as it is a very local product -, opt for artisanal fresh sausages made with free range pork. This will improve the taste and quality of your meat.
As the Nuremberg bratwursts sport marjoram as one of the main spices, along with a pinch of allspice, a little mace or a hint of lemon, I sprinkled a few fresh leaves of marjoram just picked in the garden onto my Grigio della Montagnola sausages. It was really a good idea.
But the highlight of this recipe is the cabbage.
When I buy cabbage, I always end up making a salad of it. I shred the cabbage and dress it with cumin seeds, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper and speck, a salad I have tried several times in the mountains in Trentino. However, the idea of making a warm side dish with it intrigued me, because the evenings are getting colder, and I find myself craving thicker socks, a warmer pullover and a hot dish to hug me from the inside.
To turn the cabbage into proper sauerkraut, you would need a lacto-fermentation process.
Today we won’t follow the fermentation route, but we’ll opt instead for a cooking process that gives the cabbage a delicate sweet and sour taste. You start by finely slicing the cabbage with a sharp knife or, if you have it, with a slicer or a mandolin. The finer, the better.
Once you have finely shredded the cabbage – beware, it tends to multiply its volume, only to reduce again once cooked -, blanch it in a pot of salted slightly acidic water, thanks to a little white wine vinegar. The blanching will soften the cabbage, leaving it al dente. Now drain the cabbage and place it under cold running water to halt the cooking process.
Drain it again and tap it dry: don’t skip this step, as you want to sauté the cabbage in a hot pan, not to stew it.
Now the cabbage ends up in the pan. Sauté over high heat with olive oil, salt, pepper and a drizzle of honey until golden. The result is a sweet and sour side dish, which naturally marries pork: not only sausages, but also steaks, scamerita – the typical Tuscan cut from the neck of the pork, fat and flavourful –, sirloin medallions or roast loin.
The perfect match is with a Mönch Original beer.
Grilled pork sausages and sauerkraut
- 4 fresh pork sausages
- 1 pale green or white cabbage, not too big
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 4 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 4 tablespoons sweet mustard
- 2 tablespoons honey
- freshly ground black pepper
- Wash the cabbage, then, with a sharp knife or a mandolin, shred it into thin strips.
- Take a large pot, fill it halfway with water and put it on high heat.
- Bring the water to a boil, then add the salt and the white wine vinegar.
- Now plunge the cabbage into the boiling water and blanch it for 5 minutes.
- Drain the cabbage and place it immediately under cold running water to halt the cooking process.
- Dry the cabbage by dabbing it with a clean cloth, or leave it to drain in a colander for about half an hour. Don't skip this step, as it will ensure you to perfectly sauté the cabbage, making it golden and crunchy.
- Once the cabbage is dry, take a large pan and pour in the olive oil. Heat the oil, then add the cabbage: cook the cabbage over medium- high heat, tossing it often. Drizzle the honey, season with salt and pepper, and keep cooking until golden.
- In the meantime, heat a grill pan.
- Prepare the sausages: cut them in half and season with a few leaves of fresh marjoram. When the grill pan is hot, roast the sausages, turning them often to even out the cooking.
- Serve the grilled sausages with the sauerkraut on the side, accompanying each plate with a tablespoon of sweet mustard.
Grilled sausages and sauerkraut – A video recipe
There you have also the video recipe to show you how to make the grilled sausages with marjoram and sauerkraut, a hearty dish, something you will crave in the first crisp Autumn evenings.
This video was filmed by Alessandro Semplici.